Within months of passing on Damian Lillard, Sacramento have decided to give away the player they picked instead of him. Seemingly already disenfranchised with their big man out of Kansas, they traded him for another one, and a jump-shooting backup big man, rather than wait it out. This accords with Sacramento’s grand plan, that of dumping valuable young assets to open up negligible amounts of financial flexibility, then spending it on backups. At the very least, they got Patrick Patterson this time.

Patterson broke out this year as a scorer, scoring 11 points in 25 minutes per game, and doing so at just short of 52 percent shooting with a mostly face-up game. He has occasional three-point range and a fantastic mid-range jumper — it’s not hard to project those two things being the inverse of each other some day soon, as that is the way the jump-shooting big man tends to go. Channing Frye was in a similar situation once. Patterson scores, and scores efficiently, without needing much of the playbook to do so. For this reason, he projects as a useful role player for several years. However, Sacramento’s unimpressive recent record on player development isn’t the place for someone with such big holes in his game. Patterson doesn’t box out, doesn’t defend any position, and isn’t tough enough to rectify those problems. He’ll make some jumpers, some fast break dunks, and occasionally carry the team for a quarter, but there’s an awful lot to do.

The rest of the deal has little bearing on Sacramento’s end product. Francisco Garcia will be a mildly useful defender and shooter for a year, but is essentially irrelevant, robbed of his talent by multiple injuries. So are likely to be Tyler Honeycutt (a once tantalizing prospect who hasn’t gotten anywhere, not helped by injuries), Cole Aldrich (same, except with the injuries) and Toney Douglas (whose offensive game still hasn’t recovered from whatever it was that caused him to lose it). Everyone else is a backup, only ever going to be backups, and either expiring or unguaranteed.

This trade is essentially Robinson for Patterson, or, more accurately, Robinson for Patterson and cash. Despite in the process of being sold to owners who ostensibly won’t need to do so, the Kings continue to cut costs, costing themselves high draft picks in the process. Trading for Patrick Patterson saves them half a million dollars next season, plus the cost of Robinson’s final two seasons (both of which are option years anyway), while landing them a player that is essentially a simple upgrade to the remnants of Travis Outlaw. And yet if it hadn’t been for Outlaw’s unnecessarily and fully guaranteed four-year, $12 million contract hanging on the books, that money wouldn’t have needed saving anyway. They could have had Lillard or Andre Drummond — instead, they have two Travis Outlaws and two extra 10th men they won’t re-sign.

Houston, meanwhile, buys extremely low on a player with double-double potential, and sells high on one without it. Indisputably, Robinson has struggled badly thus far in his NBA career, but four months of a difficult adjustment period do not negate the potential he showed in college. Four years might, but Robinson has plenty of time to find his way offensively and defensively in the bigs. Moving Patterson for him, and moving Marcus Morris in a somewhat unnecessary but ultimately irrelevant move, gives plenty of minutes for Robinson to learn in, on a Harden-led team that will do a much better job of getting him decent looks offensively. After all, minutes and open looks were all it took for Patterson to break out. (The same could also be said of Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones. But let’s give it a few hours to see if the Rockets trade them first.)

Narratives that Houston did this as a means to posture for a later Dwight Howard move are perhaps ambitious. (And I say this as a man to have posited this theory before.) The Rockets don’t open up any significant money with this deal — the savings on the life of Morris’ and Patterson’s contracts are not as great as the amount taken on in Robinson’s, and while the deals do open up $1.5 million in cap room next summer, that’s secondary to the Robinson acquisition. Nonetheless, that amount was the primary reason for the concurrent Morris deal, and thus is a small factor in play down the road. What Houston mainly achieved is, in theory, locking in a better young piece than the two they sent out, taking a small backwards step in the short term to do so. It’s a strategy that is hard to fault when you’re a low playoff seed at best, although it does rely upon more favorable projection of Robinson’s career than that which we have seen so far.

Considering he’s now out of Sacramento, though, that seems fair.

Comments (13)

  1. Great points. I think there’s definitely time to trade away young guys who aren’t working out to save money, but that’s a year 3 thing and not a year 0.5 thing. And the Maloofs should definitely be shamed for trying to cash grab when they’re positioned to make more money than they deserve by selling the team. The only consolation is that they’ll probably lose that money just as quickly as they’ve squandered the rest of their inherited billion.

    A small point: I don’t think the Marcus Morris move is irrelevant if what I was reading from Zach Lowe was true that the Rockets needed to dump about 1.5 to 3 million in salary next year to be able to offer a full max deal.

  2. Geoff Petrie! Stop tearing the future sonics apart before they even get to Seattle! This is exactly the get slightly better now but worse later trade a team that needs to turn around doesn’t need.

    • At one time, he was a good GM. He built those great Portland teams around Clyde Drexler, and of course the Kings teams with Chris Webber.

      Did he just lose it? Get too old? Or are the Maloofs just too hands-on for him to do anything right?

      • I know nothing about this guy, but you said drexler so he must be old as shit, and webbers been out of the league for like 5 seasons now, so I’m guessing he’s too old and out of touch

      • In all likelihood, this is Petrie’s last F-You to the Maloofs on behalf of the basketball community.

  3. Sorry Deeks I have to disagree. To me this trade is just between Patrick Patterson and Thomas Robinson. Patterson is a much better player than Robinson. I also believe that Patterson will have a better career than Robinson.

    Look at the King’s situation. Their roster is filled with under achieving talent . They got an ultimate hustle player who has a jumper. Patterson is averaging 11 points this season and is only getting better. Patterson is also DeMarcus Cousin’s older teammate from college. This could help them with DeMarcus for sure, which would be more valuable than any player involved in this deal.

    I’m tired of every NBA blogger acting like Darell Morey is the god of GMs. Look at his track record. He went to the playoffs twice with a team he inherited. Since then it has been 4 years of pure mediocrity. What has he done besides trade a bunch of contracts? Besides Parsons, all of his draft picks have been terrible. The Royce White pick looks like he did 0 research on the player. Do people really think this team is going to be a threat in the coming years? Their best players Lin and Harden are terrible defensively. They don’t have the talent to make another Harden type deal. Morey is banking on signing an All Star, but I just don’t see it. Even if they sign a Dwight, I can’t see anything happening with their current roster. All I see is a 2-3 years of first round exits before they start dumping contracts again.

    • You’d be hard pushed from all my writings on the subject to conclude that I thought Morey was an infallible genius. I judged all moves on their merits without prejudice – for Houston, for the most part, I’ve done so unfavourably. See, for example, the post linked within this one.

    • I don’t see how you can honestly think that Patterson will have a better career Robinson besides the fact that he scores more points which is mostly due to him playing 10 more minutes. Yet, even playing 10 more minutes, he collects the same number of boards and blocks as the rookie (unless boards and blocks aren’t important for bigs).

      Look at it this way – how many teams would give up a high 1st round pick to get Patterson? We saw at the deadline teams being so unwilling to give up 1st rounders – only Memphis’ pick moved this season and it’s looking to be in the mid-20s anyway. Robinson was a fairly consensus top 5 pick last year, so it’s hard to say he wouldn’t be worth a top 10 pick this year. So unless you think that Patterson is more valuable than a high draft pick, it’s hard to say this trade wasn’t awful for the Kings.

      You can question Morey’s track record (and the “4 years of pure mediocrity” were more their owner wanting him to compete for wins and trade to get better, rather than competing for ping-pong balls), but you can’t seriously say Morey didn’t get away with highway robbery in this trade.

  4. patterson has always been a poor defensive rebounder and defender , but has improved defensively . I think it is undervalued what type of defensive systems players are put in , most young players have trouble adjusting from college to pro defence . Looking at last years draft only kidd gilchrist , ezeli and draymond green are good defenders now most need alot of work

  5. patterson has decent length and athleticism with plenty of time to improve

  6. What are the chances that the Kings franchise will ruin Pattersons career? I say about 50%.
    This franchise is a joke and nothing they ever do make any kind of sense. Which Dork Elvis obviously must have known for some time now. This is the third time in 4,5 years that he tricks the Kings. (Ron Artest in 2008 and Kevin Martin in 2010).

  7. *seemingly disenchanted

  8. So much potential on the kings roster and its just getting wasted. Glad they’re moving to Seattle but they’re in a shit situation of paying Evans and cousins

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